FROM the time of the industrial revolution, women have been making their mark in the workplace, toiling in textile mills and on assembly lines despite sometimes adverse conditions and wage inequality.
With the dawn of the 21st Century, they have progressively stepped to the forefront, infiltrating government offices, executive boardrooms and historically male-dominated jobs, making them a vital part of the force that drives the global economy.
Women are to be found making their presence felt within every powerful company around the world, and the women of Sandals resorts are no different.
In celebration of International Women's Day, March 8, Sandals resorts in the Montego Bay region honoured seven unique women, who, at the core of their professional lives, embody the vast majority of women within the working classes of Jamaica and the world.
Experience is certainly the greatest teacher, and collectively Edris Roach, Doreen Allen and Patricia Grant bring over 80 years worth to the Sandals team. Currently a front office manager at Sandals Carlyle, Allen's love affair with customer service and a company that believes in giving guests more than they expect, began in 1988 when she was employed at the Norman Manley International Airport as the Sandals airport hostess.
"I was the first person to greet the guests when they arrived," she said. "In those days, welcoming the guest with that warm Jamaican hospitality felt so personal and real, it was like welcoming them into our homes."
She will agree that during those formative years she not only found a career, but a lifelong passion for always extending quality service to her guests. It's a passion that she tries to instil in all her team members to this day.
A lifelong passion is something Grant and Roach know all about. Recently appointed as executive housekeeper at Sandals flagship property, Sandals Montego Bay, Grant is a true testament to the value of sticking to what you love. Having started out as a trainee in the housekeeping department in 1990, she has meticulously worked her way up the ranks covering every position within that department. Today, she credits that hands-on knowledge of her operation for allowing her to run her department in an effective and efficient manner.
And when it comes to running a tight ship, nobody knows more than Roach, Sandals Royal Caribbean's assistant food and beverage manager. A true pioneer indeed, Roach will tell you that she was a part of the Sandals Royal Caribbean team even before it was Sandals Royal Caribbean.
"I actually started working at the then Royal Caribbean resort in 1979 as a room attendant. When Sandals entered the game and took over the resort, I was drawn to their infectious energy and was anxious to learn the new direction and strategies of a company I knew was destined for success," she recalled.
Being at the resort from the very beginning and witnessing its growth and expansion from the ground up has given Roach a one-of-a-kind insight into the foundations on which Sandals is built and the innate culture running throughout every fibre of the organisation.
With their immense sphere of knowledge, there is hardly a situation that these three women can't handle, after all, they've seen it all; they've made all the mistakes, found the solutions and they are now well climatised to the demands of the industry and their respective positions.
With an ever-emerging batch of young, green employees entering the workplace, women like these three find themselves at a unique vantage point, and hold the responsibility to train, counsel, motivate and inspire. Together, they oversee over 200 Sandals employees within their divisions. They are deeply respected by the staff at large and sought after for their wisdom, and still they make it all seem effortless with a firm but democratic leadership style, genuine care for their team members, and, of course, passion for their guests and a job well done.
The young executives
Six years ago, and at only 22 years old, Lisa Gardener was the youngest female within the Sandals chain to be appointed hotel manager, a position she still holds at Sandals' boutique resort, Sandals Carlyle. Her journey with Sandals began in 2005 when she was employed at Sandals Montego Bay as a supervisor and chief editor in the video operations department. Already armed with a bachelor's in mass communication and with media production her original love, Gardener made an exit from the hospitality field to hone her skills in video production. However, her love for tourism soon influenced a return to Sandals, where she fully immersed herself in the operations of Sandals Carlyle.
"Sandals Carlyle has been my ultimate training ground; having a small management team where everyone is expected to multitask has allowed me the freedom to navigate my way through every department within the resort, gaining first-hand knowledge of their operations and a new-found appreciation for the function that they each play in helping us to achieve our goal of being number one," she said.
Currently, Gardener leads a team of 54 as the right hand to the general manager, Lance Parrish. Under her guidance, Sandals Carlyle has gained international recognition as a top-25 all-inclusive resort with the Caribbean as well as the recipient of the Trip Advisor award for excellent service. Gardener's practical experience in hospitality is further solidified with an MBA in tourism and hospitality.
Jullian Henry, director of guest services at Sandals Montego Bay, did not have the flashy college degree on her entry into tourism in 2001. Blossoming from humble beginnings as a trainee in the kitchen, what she had was youthful exuberance and a determination to reach the helm of the corporate ladder.
"After graduating from high school, I sought to gain employment with the hope of one day becoming a manager in the hospitality industry," she admitted.
It appears that from the very get-go, Henry was intent on emerging from the shadows, and with her outstanding customer service skills, impeccable attention to detail and a strategic plan set in motion to manoeuvre her way from the (kitchen) range to the front line, she is poised to become one of the top directors of guest services within her company.
Handling the varying needs, demands, requests and sometimes grouses of well over 300 guests on average per week is no small task. Actually, it is one that most people would shy away from. Yet, do not expect to see 28-year-old Henry break a sweat. Her
top-notch customer service skills and jovial personality create a winning combination that has not only earned her numerous awards including Manager of the Year, but has allowed her to steer the customer service ratings of Sandals' flagship resort to the highest levels.
Breaking the rules in a 'man's world' are Erica Taylor and Simone Simpson. Working within Sandals' male-dominated Marine Division, Taylor's strong and assertive demeanour is easily recognisable as she commands the attention of the 15 males that she works with on a daily basis. With a career spanning 16 years, she works as a rough and tumble shipwright in the Marine Division. She said she absolutely loves her job.
"I am inspired by the fact that I work for a division of highly skilled men who I can learn from, but one of the most important things I've learnt is that at the end of the day there is no 'male' or 'female', there is only the 'team'," she said.
"As women, if we want something bad enough we cannot rest on our laurels and use our gender as a crutch, we have to get up and grab the bull by the horns."
Simpson, boat captain at Sandals Royal Caribbean, would agree. This pretty, soft-spoken 24-year-old joined the Sandals family as a towel hut assistant at Sandals Montego Bay, an entry level position by all indications.
"During my time at Sandals Montego Bay, I had a lot of free time which I put to good use, helping out in the watersports shop," she said.
When a position for a shop attendant at Sandals Royal Caribbean became available, Simpson switched resorts and embraced the added responsibility with open arms. Ever since her entry into the watersports department, she has continued to move from strength to strength. For a girl who could not swim and nearly drowned twice, she has certainly taken the plunge -- facing her fears while learning to swim.
She continues to constantly push herself -- gaining her lifeguard certification and her Coxswain boat licence, which allow her to drive three of four boats on resort, sometimes doing up to 40 boat transfers a day between Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Island.
She'll admit, however, that working in a male-dominated team has its struggles.
"You have to remain focused and be professional and you have to try extra hard to prove yourself; nothing is handed to you on a platter."
Despite their varying ages and job responsibilities, one thing that all these women have in common is a passion that knows no boundaries. They are highly motivated and they know the value of hard work.